Salve awarded grant to preserve history of slavery in South Kingstown

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded Salve Regina a grant from the Joseph O’Neill Ott Fund to support the creation of a digital collection of 18th century documents related to slavery. The project, “Documenting Slavery in South Kingstown’s Colonial Records,” will describe each page of probate records digitized from the South Kingstown Town Records office. Each image and its description will be available through Salve Regina’s digital collections in JStor Forum.

The records include probate and town council records dated 1704-1742, of wills, probate inventories and town council decrees, all of which provide evidence addressing how slavery was conceived of, recorded and carried out in colonial Rhode Island.

“The presence and practice of slavery in New England in the 1700s is often left undiscussed in history classes and in museums. Rhode Island in particular was the central hub of finance for the slave trade,” said Genna Duplisea, Salve’s archivist and special collections librarian.

“Enslaved people lived, worked and died in the region, working in large-scale farms, known as the Narragansett Plantations, as well as the homes of traders and artisans in the urban centers of Newport and Providence,” Duplisea said. “This project affords the opportunity to preserve vital information addressing slavery in Rhode Island.”

The project emerged from collaborations between faculty members Dr. Jon Marcoux, associate professor in Noreen Stonor Drexel Cultural and Historic Preservation Program, and Dr. Emily Colbert Cairns, associate professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, both of whom have taught a University Seminar course using these primary sources. Duplisea will provide the technical guidance for the project.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the foundation raised $38 million and awarded $43 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2017. For more information, visit

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